Diverse local authority policies and practices throughout the UK are making big differences to the uptake and operation of direct payments a system for supporting people who are receiving community care by enabling them to purchase their own care. New research from the Economic and Social Research Council reveals that direct payments are being operated, and experienced, very differently in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Direct payments are funds paid by local authorities directly to disabled people, and other community care service users, to buy-in their own support, usually this takes the form of employing personal care assistants.
The payments, first introduced in 1997, have been controversial. Some have seen them as a covert means of privatising the delivery of public sector services, whilst for others they represent an important means of empowering those at the margins, of society by involving them as co-producers of their services.
The research team, led by Professor Sheila Riddell of Edinburgh University, found:
Commenting on the research Professor Sheila Riddell said:
We need to understand how the modernisation of welfare agenda is playing out in different parts of the UK, so that disabled people and others are confident about having their rights respected irrespective of their country or locality. This research helps to inform the ongoing debate about the best way to empower service users
A spokesperson for the Department of Health, which oversees the scheme in England, said: Direct payments give individuals real choice and control over the services they use. We are committed to extending direct payments to enable greater numbers of people to benefit and we launched a national toolkit in May 2007 to support English local authorities to achieve this.'
A spokesperson for the Scottish government said: The Scottish government has already addressed many of the issues raised in this report. New national guidance published July 2007 is designed to radically increase uptake of self-directed support (direct payments) in Scotland. Individual budgets are already a reality in some council areas. The guidance sets out good practice for equalising access across Scotland so that more people who wish to can benefit from the flexibility, control and independence self-directed support can bring.
|Contact: Danielle Moore|
Economic & Social Research Council